Meet the U.S. Coxswain Looking to Turn Tragedy Into Triumph at the Olympics

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It’s the most dominant American team you’ve likely never heard of: the U.S. women’s eight rowing squad, which has won every world title and Olympic gold medal since 2006. In Rio, Katelin Snyder will replace Mary Whipple, who led the team to gold medals in Beijing and London. But Snyder’s no novice: she’s won four world championships with Team USA. In 2010, however, Snyder was cut from the national team in the lead-up to the London Games; soon after, she lost her 21-year-old brother, Jake, to cancer. “He was a really, really nice person, probably one of the most helpful people I’ve ever met,” says Snyder. “And I have really tried to take some of that into my own life.”

The coxswain sits in the boat facing the rowers, and controls the boat’s timing and speed through verbal instructions. “She’s always been good in the race, but I think outside the race she’s gotten much better,” says Tom Terhaar, U.S. Rowing women’s national team head coach. “She is becoming a little more aware that she is responsible for these kids even when they are not rowing. And I think the athletes look up to her quite a bit.”

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